MOSCOW — This was a butt-kicking absolutely no one saw coming.
Except for the Idaho Vandals.
Idaho controlled the ball with its running game and short passes, and its defense bottled up dynamic quarterback Eric Barriere and the Eastern Washington Eagles in the first half, then made enough plays in the second half to finish with a statement 35-27 victory Saturday before 6,567 at the Kibbie Dome.
“We took the field like we expected to win,” said Idaho quarterback Mason Petrino, who threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns. “We really felt like we were going to get after these guys. We kept hitting them, and we kept hitting them. … I’m just really happy for our guys.”
In a nonconference game between Big Sky Conference rivals, Idaho (2-2) controlled the ball for much of the first half against Eastern (1-3).
The Vandals, picked to finish eighth in the Big Sky gashed the Eags, picked to win the league, to the tune of 147 rushing yards, and Petrino threw for 182 yards in the first half as Idaho built a 28-0 halftime lead. Aundre Carter ran for all 76 of his yards in the first half.
Idaho kept EWU’s offense off the field for most of the half, running 49 plays to the Eagles’ 25.
“When we scored on that first drive, we were definitely trying to set a tone,” Idaho offensive guard Noah Johnson said. “That was one of our goals — we wanted to dominate physically.”
And Jeff Cotton, in particular, and Cutrell Haywood abused Eastern’s defensive backs. Cotton finished with 10 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, many of those receptions keeping drives alive. Haywood added five catches for 69 yards.
“Watching film, we knew these guys weren’t the team they were last year,” Cotton said, referring to EWU’s 38-14 victory over Idaho in Cheney last year. “We were able to do what we wanted to do. I felt for the most part we were having our way with them.”
On defense, Tre Walker and Charles Akanno helped slow the Eastern running game, and kept Barriere from scrambling all over the field in the first half.
“What we focused on was stopping the run first and foremost,” said Idaho linebacker Christian Elliss, who picked off a Barriere pass in the first half. “And then we were able to get sacks and put pressure on them, and get into No. 3’s (Barriere’s) head.”
Idaho moved the ball at will in the first half, and had four touchdowns and a partially blocked missed field goal on four of its first six drives.
Carter opened the scoring on a 7-yard run — actually, he was stopped at the line of scrimmage, but the scrum found its way into the end zone.
Walker’s fumble recovery at the Eastern 21 set up Petrino’s 7-yard TD pass to Haywood, making it 21-0.
Down 28-0, just when Eastern was starting to look like Eastern, the 11th-ranked team in FCS — Barriere hit Dre Dorton for 15 yards and Jayson Williams for 18 — Barriere threw late into coverage and Elliss intercepted at the Vandal 19.
“I think they ran the ball extremely well,” Eastern coach Aaron Best said of Idaho. “They were getting chunk yardage, and we weren’t tackling great. It’s hard when a team’s dictating the tempo and and doing what they want. So commend those guys for their game plan. They did a great job. They came out fired up. They came out for the first 30 minutes and absolutely did what they wanted to us.”
After one quarter, Idaho led 196-21 in total yards. At halftime, the Vandals led 329-103.
One of Barriere’s best passes of the first half was a tight spiral down the right sideline — right into the arms of his head coach.
For the game, Idaho outgained Eastern just 463-460, but by that point the Eagles were pressing, the Vandals protecting their lead.
Trailing 28-7, Eastern couldn’t score on first-and-goal from the Vandal 1. Kyle Perry (Sandpoint High) stopped Antoine Custer Jr. for no gain on second down, and Charles Akanno forced Barriere into an incompletion on fourth down from the 3.
Early in the fourth quarter, an under thrown pass from Petrino to Cotton was picked off by Dehonta Hayes at the Vandals 28. Barriere ran it in from the 2 to make it 28-13.
But Idaho responded with a touchdown. Nick Romano, a true freshman from Rocky Mountain High in Meridian, broke a 27-yard run. Petrino avoided pressure from Mitchell Johnson and found Cotton for 12 yards on third and 8. Petrino then hooked up with Cotton on a 2-yard TD pass on third and goal to make it 35-13 with 7:59 left.
Eastern pulled within a touchdown with :45 seconds left, but Hayden Hatten of Idaho recovered the onside kick to seal the win.
“In the first half, I would say this: We outplayed them at every single position,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “To stop that offense the way they did in the first half is just awesome.”
NOTES: Nate DeGraw, a redshirt sophomore from Post Falls High, started at defensive tackle for the Vandals … Seth Harrison, a freshman kicker from Coeur d’Alene High, booted PATs on three of the four touchdowns for Eastern. On the other one, the holder bobbled the snap, Harrison picked it up and, under pressure, was intercepted at the goal line. … Idaho scored its first touchdown in the Kibbie Dome against Eastern in 21 years — of course, this was only the third time the teams have played in the Dome since then. In 2003, EWU won 8-5 in Moscow. In 2012, the Eagles won 20-3. ... It was Idaho’s first win over Eastern since 1998, and the Vandals’ first win over a team ranked No. 11 or higher in any national poll since 1999, when Idaho beat No. 4 Montana. The last time an FCS Idaho team beat a fellow FCS program ranked 11th or better was 1995 against No. 6 Montana. ... Both teams open Big Sky play next Saturday — Idaho at Northern Colorado, and Eastern at home vs. North Dakota, a game that counts in the Big Sky standings even though North Dakota is no longer a member of the Big Sky.
Idaho 35, E. Washington 27
E. Washington 0 0 7 20 — 27
Idaho 14 14 0 7 — 35
IDHO—Carter 7 run (Coffey kick), 10:36.
IDHO—Carter 3 run (Coffey kick), 4:54.
IDHO—Haywood 8 pass from Petrino (Coffey kick), 9:22.
IDHO—Petrino 20 run (Coffey kick), 6:39.
EWU—Barriere 3 run (Harrison kick), 10:46.
EWU—Barriere 2 run (pass failed), 11:59.
IDHO—Cotton 2 pass from Petrino (Coffey kick), 7:59.
EWU—Williams 9 pass from Barriere (Harrison kick), 3:59.
EWU—Dorton 30 pass from Barriere (Harrison kick), 0:45.
First downs 27 24
Rushes-yards 32-95 47-223
Passing 365 240
Comp-Att-Int 28-46-1 22-31-1
Return Yards 32 115
Punts-Avg. 4-45.5 3-35.7
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalty-Yards 8-95 8-80
Time of Possession 24:07 35:53
RUSHING—E. Washington, A. Custer Jr. 17-59, E. Barriere 11-20, M. Smith 4-16. Idaho, A. Carter 14-75, M. Petrino 10-60, R. Johnson 18-59, N. Romano 4-29.
PASSING—E. Washington, E. Barriere 28-46-1-365. Idaho, M. Petrino 22-31-1-240.
RECEIVING—E. Washington, D. Dorton 7-133, J. Edwards IV 2-61, J. Williams 6-59, A. Boston 5-46, A. Custer Jr. 6-36, A. Stell Jr. 1-19, M. Smith 1-11. Idaho, J. Cotton 10-110, C. Haywood 5-69, L. Kendall 2-25, H. Hatten 1-24, D. Lee 1-7, C. Whitney 1-3, R. Johnson 1-2, L. Hyde 1-0.